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      •  Sunday Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag

One last round of answers to the questions posed by R.T. in Arlington, and then we flip the script. Incidentally, today's mailbag has more subsections to it than any mailbag we've ever run.

What Do You Want from Trump Supporters, Part IV

A.L. in Rutgers, NJ, writes: R.T. in Arlington wrote: "What do you want members of Trumpish tribes to do?"

Tell us what it is that is really scaring you. After all the noise about the wall, Confederate statues, cancel culture, political correctness, etc., has abated, tell us calmly what is it about the future you see that is worrying you?

I will tell you what worries me: violence. Violence towards people like me who are not Christian and Caucasian. Violence towards people who are LGBTQ. This fear has always been with me. It has dictated what job offers I seriously entertain. What states and towns I can live in.

T.V. in Kansas City, MO, writes: I thought I would get in my two cents in response to R.T. in Arlington's question: "What do you want members of Trumpish tribes to do?" There have been many good suggestions, but I would like Trump supporters to do something fundamental—take stock of their self-esteem and self-image, perhaps with the assistance of a good therapist, for their own benefit.

Since the rise of Newt Gingrich in the early 1990s, the conservative movement has become a self-esteem cult fueled by resentment, rage, victimization, and the demonization of liberals. What we see today is actually the outcome of the most successful psyop in U.S. history. Back when Newt was coming up, changes to the American economy and the increasing diversity and secularization of our society left many traditional conservatives, particularly those from deeply religious cultures and in isolated parts of the country, feeling disconnected and in some cases forgotten economically and culturally. Rather than help those Americans assimilate to a changing country, Newt Gingrich and those like him decided to weaponize that alienation.

The result has been a 30 year campaign declaring liberals, progressives, and Democrats to be the enemies of America, opposed to everything that conservatives allegedly care about: Jesus, marriage, family, white people, hard work, capitalism, the military, guns, religion, rural towns, babies, the national anthem. Over those years liberals have become all-purpose monsters, which is why "owning the Libs" has become, essentially, the entire Republican platform. The conservatives who learned at the knee of Rush Limbaugh and then grew up to support Donald Trump have been endlessly brainwashed into believing they are virtuous "real" Americans fighting the good fight against the evil liberals who want to turn America into...some amalgam of Venezuela and West Hollywood, I suppose.

The obvious problem with this line of thinking, apart from the political consequences, is that living this way is terrible for body, mind, and spirit. Happy, psychologically healthy individuals don't attend Trump rallies and scream racist epithets at the top of their lungs for hours at a cult leader. They don't endlessly parrot transparently insane conspiracy theories. They don't storm the U.S. Capitol, believing themselves to be patriots, with the intent of murdering U.S. legislators and the vice president. It's my belief that three decades of anti-liberal right wing brainwashing has given us a generation of conservatives who are profoundly miserable, steeped in hatred and rage to the point where they can no longer function outside of that bubble. I feel sorry for them rather than feeling angry at them.

These are people who need help, and I don't say that flippantly as a way to dismiss their beliefs, crazy as many of their beliefs are. I am convinced that the first step in healing this country is convincing at least some Trump supporters to seek counseling and professional help dealing with real mental health issues, purely for their own benefit. Changing hearts and minds is the only way to change the future, and that will only happen when these people feel heard and listened to by someone compassionate who can help them let go of the protective shield of their anger and resentment.

Perhaps a chain of Trump Drive-Thru Mental Health-R-Us clinics?

D.A. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: What do I want from Trump Supporters? Nothing. I have no expectations of anything decent from those people. Yes, I categorize them as a group. They are craven, immoral, racist, violence-prone, fascistic, unprincipled, cowardly, and stupid. I understand that they make up a gigantic minority of the population of the U.S.A. and am only the sadder for that. I have no interest in understanding them because there is nothing to understand beyond the study of mass sociopathology, and that's not my field.

What I am working on is arriving at a better understanding of my fellow (small-D) democrats, from consistent never-Trumpers of GOP origin to the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) wing of the Democratic Party and further left to the non-Democratic Party wing of the DSA (not all DSA-ers wish to collaborate with the Democratic Party). I want to understand AOC, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Manchin. I want to understand the left's aversion to the Second Amendment (which I do not share), and I want to understand why (small-D) democrats disdain the prudence of organizing paramilitary defense groups in anticipation of a civil war that we pray never comes.

I want to campaign for $15/hr, Medicare for All, and, above all, union power. Trumpers have no place in this except as stumbling blocks. Life is a great teacher, and the deprivations caused by climate change and pandemic along with the opportunities offered by union organizing, might change some Trumper individuals into not being Trumpers. When that happens, they will no longer be the same people who they were, in the same way that when a nucleus undergoes beta decay or spits out an alpha particle, it is no longer the same element. Circumstances will change some Trumpers. They will not be changed by dialog or attempts at understanding.

R.M. in Port Matilda, PA, writes: What do I want from Trump Supporters?

I want them to go away.

But since that won't happen, the real question is "what do I want from the Democrats?"

I want them to pull a Stacey Abrams in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Arizona, Texas, and a host of currently-red states. I want the Democratic Party to focus on identifying those who will vote Democratic, register them and turn them out! As Jamie Harrison found out in his South Carolina U.S. Senate race, you can buy every billboard and every TV ad and send a bushel of mailers out everyday, but it won't mean a thing if you don't get your voters out.

Republicans are lost causes. Those who still supported Trump in the last election are not going to vote Democratic and the Democrats need to quit wasting precious time, resources and political capital trying to convert them. The other side doesn't reach out to us, so why do we keep reaching out to them, given that all they do is bite our hands off? They are not the "loyal" opposition. As Jan. 6 showed us, they are the willfully uninformed enemy from within. You don't reason with it. You don't try to understand it. You defeat it! You don't defeat it with TV ads, you defeat it with turnout. Until the Democratic party gets serious about turnout, we will continue to lose winnable races to TrumpliQans.

And just in case anyone thinks this is harsh, here is some handiwork of the so-called "patriots" right here in Central Pennsyltucky:

Two pictures; one of a barn painted with pro-Biden/Harris messaging
and a second of the same barn burned to the ground

This is why I dare not put a Biden sign in my yard in the area which I live.

S.M. in Baltimore, MD, writes: Ok, this will sound rather harsh, but there is only one thing I want from Trump supporters: to die off.

Not necessarily violently, mind you, I am not advocating for their beloved fascism here. What I am trying to say is that they won't change their views, and I can't expect anyone on my side to accomplish this. There are always people who think "their America" is being "taken away" from them. They never change their views, they never stop being resentful, and they take their grievances to their graves, until there are too few of them left to exert much political influence anymore.

The people who vote for Trump will always hate people like me: immigrants who had the temerity to be born in another country (the nerve of us!) yet strut around America like we own the place and even dare to voice opinions in a better written and spoken English than they—the towheaded ubermenschen of America's heartland—are capable of. I have heard too many slurs and condescending B.S. in my life to hope that folks like this can be changed.

So, this is what I want. I want enough of them to succumb to the inevitable effects of Bud Light, oxycontin, lawnmower accidents and hunting mishaps to sufficiently reduce their demographic and strip it of its political power. Oh, and let's greatly improve our public education system to make sure the next generation doesn't simply replace it.

C.J. in Lowell, MA, writes: My answer boils down to four things:

  1. Live in the real world. You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.

  2. Look at every person regardless of background and see in them a brother or sister. If you adhere to an Abrahamic faith, remember that every single one of us has been created in the Image of God.

  3. Don't be a troll or bully, or make it your life's mission to "own the libs." Think of how a policy will benefit us and not just me. Your own circumstances are not a completely invalid barometer of the merits of policy, but if you use that factor make sure it really is something that mostly lifts you up rather than tears others down.

  4. Consider what is right rather than who is right. It's one thing to admire a leader, but Trumpism has turned the once Grand Old Party into a personality cult.

P.S. in Portland, ME, writes: What I want of Trump supporters is to realize that we are all human and we are all crazy and just some of us deal with it better than others. I want them to watch the movie "American Beauty," winner of 5 major academy awards in 1999, and really absorb the meaning of the line "Never underestimate the power of denial." I want them to realize that oh so often, ego and denial lead to ignorance, and that is almost always how good and smart people, like most Trump supporters, end up being wrong. I want them to realize that we can absolutely be positive that we are right and the other person is wrong, and for a long, long time, and yet still be wrong because our perceptions are our truths. I want them to dig down deep and say "Maybe I am blinded by ego, denial, and ignorance because Trump's policies were just good for me and what I want, but not so good for oh so many." I want them to ask themselves the question, "What if I am wrong and the other 60% of Americans are right, and Trump really was the worst president ever? What if?"

L.M. in Laramie, WY, writes: I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, a real city kid who went to Philadelphia and wondered where all the buildings were. But my teaching life has led me to college towns in rural areas across America, from Mississippi to Indiana, Illinois and Arizona. I am currently in Laramie, Wyoming. I have a couple of responses to R.T.'s question, "What do you propose we do to solve these issues in actionable terms? Isn't that what our politics should be about?" based on my experience in all these places:

Emphasize jobs and infrastructure. Donald Trump knew what his constituents wanted when he continually announced infrastructure weeks, he just never delivered. People want a way to support themselves and to fix the crumbling roads, bridges, and dams of our communities. I remember a long bridge over the Mississippi and a shorter one over the Laramie train tracks that you could see light through. Decent paying jobs that fix decades of neglect would be welcome.

Extend the definition of infrastructure beyond roads and bridges to Internet access, airports, renewable energy (one remarkable example has been Iowa's switch to wind energy), and support for federal lands, including fire services. We spent weeks this summer in Wyoming choking from the smoke and ash of hundreds of thousands of burning acres of Wyoming and Colorado forests and were saved by federal firefighting teams.

Support rural health care by funding small hospitals and accessible health insurance. A number of hospitals in Wyoming threatened with closure have stayed open only because of the desperate need for them in various COVID-19 hotspots across the state. The ACA has been life saving for many in rural states—my partner lived without insurance of any kind for over 20 years because he couldn't afford Wyoming's outrageous individual insurance rates, now over $1,000 a month for an individual not in the ACA exchanges. Fighting insurance and hospital monopolies would help as well.

Finally, a suggestion that would not be approved of by many Trump supporters including the mostly white male Republican legislatures of many rural states, but is desperately needed, is far greater support for Native American Nations. Even before COVID, the sight of friends from the Navajo or Wind River reservations going to the funeral of another elder, another brother or cousin lost far too young, was all too common and it has just gotten worse. Health care desperately needs to improve. But jobs and infrastructure are also critical to the support of the community. Specific support for upholding federal treaty obligations and recognition of unique linguistic and cultural traditions, including artistic traditions, would also help revitalize communities.

D.H in Pueblo, CO, writes: We have had a number of letters on what Biden voters would like of Trump voters. One factor in conflict resolution is that you can't change the other side; you can only change yourself and hope the other side will respond positively. So, I ask: "What would Trump voters like of Biden voters?" And please do your best to be realistic; you are a lot more likely to get them to acknowledge some of their problems, and maybe work to mitigate those problems, than you are to get them to "compromise" by implementing your entire agenda. And let's both—Biden and Trump voters—focus on finding what we can all agree should be done, and do it! There are such things if you look.

V & Z respond: We've run four weeks' worth of letters from Biden voters; if any Trump voters (or right-leaning, non-Trump voters) would care to respond to D.H.'s question, we will run some of those next week.

TrumpWatch 2021

A.W. in Northglenn, CO, writes: In response to your comment that the motivations of QAnon believers are "complicated to the point of being beyond a pollster," I wanted to suggest a resource for your readers. This podcast addresses the question of what causes right-wing conspiracy theorists to believe as they do. It's a left-wing podcast, so I'm sure it won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I think it's a pretty interesting and useful discussion about what makes conspiracy theories so appealing to so many people.

A.P. in Bloomington, IL, writes: I am surprised that no one has connected Q with the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." The book was written by racist people in Russia, but probably is connected to many older stories that were circulated in rural areas to whip up hatred by poor peasants towards Jews living among them. It went like this: Jews kidnap children to use in satanic rituals that include drinking their blood and eating their flesh on holy feast days. One of the results was that Jews in many places ate with their doors open so their neighbors could see that they were not eating children.

The stories in the Protocols were serialized in Russian newspapers and translated into several other languages at the beginning of the 20th century. After the Bolshevik revolution they were carried out of Russia and reprinted in many places around the world, including in the U.S. by Henry Ford. They were used in Germany in public schools after the Nazi takeover to indoctrinate the officers that later served in the SS.

The Q story about Hillary Clinton and company kidnapping children in the basement of a pizzeria in D.C. to kill them and drink their blood is an exact parallel.

We need to connect this fabrication to the long-standing lie that certain minorities do despicable things in an effort to secretly take control of the government and enslave the free people. It has been used for centuries as a reason to riot and kill innocent and peaceful people of many kinds. It is not a fantastic lie that Q made up randomly. It is a long standing, often repeated, racist diatribe, invented to justify violence against minorities and peaceful majorities. Those who repeat it are inciting violence against their neighbors.

J.L.J. in San Francisco, CA, writes: Recently, I had a chat with my dear father, who is at once a full-bore Trump supporter and yet simultaneously denies he is a Trump supporter. He likes to remind me he is an "independent" who checks "all the facts." He bristles when I note he's often peddling a Fox News narrative, asserting he never watches the network. This was my first check-in this year, and I had hoped he had moderated his views. Boy was I wrong.

Again, as someone who is not a Trump supporter but did vote for him, he "just has questions" about the election results. He also stated that, as an American and a voter, he deserves answers and is offended that nobody wishes to get to the bottom of what happened. I asked whether the judicial branch counts, and he said they did not because they never seriously adjudicated any of the cases. Rather, he wants "Colonel Phil Waldron" to review the ballots, and he'll believe whatever that guy says. I had never heard that name before, but he cited him each time I pointed out evidence, such as audits in Georgia, Arizona, etc.

I noted that if this colonel reviewed everything and came back saying everything was on the up and up, many people would dismiss him as a compromised tool of the Left and continue "having questions." He flatly rejected this point as impossible, but at least for him, he'd be satisfied. This one guy is it. Anything less, and he'll live the rest of his days with questions. He pulled the "I'm your father and I'm telling you I trust this guy and so should you," which did not work. I don't trust his guy nor do I see any reason any state should allow his guy to have access to their ballots. He then went on about a Chinese lady—a probable spy—and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), a path which I did not and could not follow.

Banter shifted to other things. This weekend, he will be playing a live show—he's a guitarist. He's done this numerous times throughout the pandemic, and does not wear a mask. He has done so because he sees it all as overwrought, and no worse than the flu—still. He was stunned I doubted his claim that COVID-19 was a bio-weapon engineered in a lab in "Communist China." I find the dissonance interesting: a communist bio-weapon that is simultaneously not a big deal. The chat got back into politics, or at least some space-alien approximation of politics.

He was outraged that Joe Biden spent his speech the other night attacking and blaming Donald Trump for everything. I noted that Biden never mentioned Trump directly, and only said that the pandemic was ignored and downplayed. He did not agree, and made it a point to note that Biden is senile, and couldn't remember the name of his own Secretary of Defense. He also wanted to "remind" me that without Trump, we wouldn't have a vaccine. I noted Pfizer's was developed in Germany and AstraZeneca's in Britain, and so we'd have them whether the U.S. existed or not, though Trump does deserve some credit for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. To this, he said they're not really vaccines, but freedom of speech allows us to call them that. Then he said stuff about "proteins" before noting he won't waste his time getting the "protein shot." Again, with the dissonance; Trump deserves credit for the vaccine, but it's not a vaccine and it doesn't work.

I'll spare you the rest, but when I finally put the phone down, I had a splitting headache. It's important to remember, he "never" watches Fox News and has only heard of OANN and Newsmax because I mentioned them (so he claims). I share this in the hopes he's an outlier and not representative of something larger. The thought that there are millions like him make it hard not to feel a strong sense of hopelessness.

J.K. in Freehold, NJ, writes: Towards the end of World War II, after Adolf Hitler took complete command of the German military, and with it being obvious that he was a military incompetent, the Allies concluded that it just might be better not to assassinate him lest the German war effort go into the hands of more capable leadership. With this in mind I, in a half-baked way, wonder if it wouldn't be better not to incarcerate Trump and, as a free man, let him continue to spit and spread his bile to the further detriment of the Republican Party. I'm not advocating Trump not be prosecuted and incarcerated, as I surely would rather see the former president and the other members of the Trump crime family behind bars. I'm just pointing out it could be that the Republicans are screwed either way.

E.M. in Poughkeepsie, NY, writes: My daughter plays the trumpet so I'd rather reserve "Trumpeter" for her. P.F. in Wixom, makes a good point that "Trumpsters" reminds one of "dumpsters," but in the end I've settled on "Trump Thumpers," which highlights the similarity (and overlap) between his most serious supporters and the Evangelical "Bible Thumpers," along with a semi-rhyme thrown in.

R.R.E. in Chicago, IL, writes: With all due respect to P.F. in Wixom, although "Trumpster" has a certain ring to it, those of us in the garbage disposal industry don't like the association with "dumpster." After all, we put rubbish in landfills; we don't try to send it to Congress.

C.P. in La Honda, CA, writes: In response to D.S. in Palo Alto, I propose "Trumpeteers." This term is less likely to be confused with those who play trumpets and further, by conjuring memories of "The Mickey Mouse Club," has the added advantage of invoking some of the childishness of Trump supporters who will believe anything the Dear Leader says.

P.R. in Saco, ME, writes: Obviously, you set the standards for your own site, but I'm afraid I won't consider it a You-Know-Who-free day until his orange puss disappears from that banner at the top. Please, oh please? I am so sick of looking at him.

¿Oye Cuomo Va?

R.H.D. in Webster, NY, writes: Here's an update on the ongoing saga involving Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY). The winds of impeachment got stronger as the Assembly Speaker ordered an impeachment inquiry to begin. Now the Judiciary Committee of the Assembly will begin gathering facts and evidence to determine whether Cuomo should be impeached.

Our state's version of impeachment is mostly the same as the federal ones we've experienced with Donald Trump. A simple majority vote is needed to impeach in the Assembly. However there are a couple of significant differences of note:

  • If the governor is impeached, the Lt. Governor (Kathy Hochul) immediately becomes the Acting Governor. Cuomo's powers are temporarily stripped.

  • The jurors in an impeachment would be the State Senate and the entire Court of Appeals (our version of the U.S. Supreme Court). We have 7 justices, so they along with the 62 senators equal 69. A two-thirds vote is still needed for conviction. In this case it would be 46 votes.

I would also note the calls for Cuomo to resign and/or be impeached have been bipartisan. Democrats have just been as outraged over these scandals as the GOP. Can't say "witch hunt" or "hoax" with this one.

While the political leaders seem intent to toss Cuomo aside, the public is more split, based on polling I've seen in the past week. The gist I get is that they want the investigations to run their course before rendering judgment.

The GOP's motives here are pretty obvious. They see an easy target and an opportunity to take down a giant from the other side. They did that with his dad in 1994.

But for the Democrats, it's a little more complex. Some may truly believe these allegations have merit and therefore Cuomo must go. But I also sense that the reason most of the bigwigs want him out comes down to politics, both state and national. Deep down, they now see Cuomo as an albatross. The longer he stays, the longer he risks alienating suburban women and independents for the Party. That could doom them in next year's midterms. The liberal wing—AOC, Bill DeBlasio, etc.—never really liked him and now's their chance to pull the party further to the left as 2022 comes around. Remember, Cuomo was challenged in the 2018 primaries by progressive Cynthia Nixon. Even though this is a sapphire-blue state, the Democrats need to get their ducks in a row heading to next year.

For me, I still think there is something more here going on that we don't know yet. It's interesting that these sexual misconduct allegations happened right after the nursing home scandal arose. Also, AG Letitia James (D) is leading both investigations into Cuomo and she is eyeing the big chair. Coincidence or opportunity? In any event, we have high drama here in the Empire State and all of us better fasten our seat belts.

C.K. in Rochester, NY, writes: I'd like to add my voice to the comments from D.K. in Oceanside on the impact of the #MeToo movement on political figures. She relays the story of a boss who today would be accused of sexual harassment. I totally "get it" that Governor Cuomo's alleged treatment of women might constitute what today is considered harassment, but the pendulum has swung way too far. My dad, my uncle, and many male family friends would all either be in jail today or paying some terrible price for what was considered harmless teasing in their day.

The persistent harassment and/or any non-consensual sexual acts or "antics" should never be condoned. However, we have created a monster when the act of putting one's hand on a woman's back, kissing a hand that wasn't pulled away, or sniffing someone's hair is considered sexual harassment, justifying the ruination of a political or business career.

The #MeToo movement has given many women the courage to speak up where there is mistreatment, and more effort needs to go into removing societal barriers that prevent wronged women (or men) from daring to have a voice. At the same time, my heartfelt thanks go to D.K. for her post, with agreement that we need to resist a pendulum swing that results in a society where we are afraid to touch one another, joke with one another, or engage in playful teasing.

This is coming from someone who was raped as a young adult, and who wishes she had the courage to speak up then, but didn't. I was a victim then, but I can take a hand on my back as a gesture that will not maim me for life.

R.T. in Arlington, TX, writes: Andrew Cuomo's situation got me thinking about how we judge or misjudge the sexual behavior of unmarried elected officials like him and former Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who used to be my congressman. (Please note that I am not condoning marital infidelity.) These folks have an inordinate difficulty meeting their relationship/sexual needs due to extreme risk to their careers. They have virtually no human interaction outside of a work context, and due to their public profile no one they meet can really ignore their public position and get to know them as a human being first. Add to this the fact that due to the authority of their positions, no one in their work environment can be flirted with because they are higher on the "org chart" than everyone they work with. Even a relationship with an ordinary person outside politics is not safe since at any moment a clumsy pass, bad date, or dissatisfied boy/girlfriend or could turn into a destructive news item. Employing a sex worker is an invitation to be blackmailed, or to be outed for a reasonable fee.

Many, if not most, people meet their partner at work, particularly if you think of students as "co-workers" at their schools. So maybe the rest of us should grow up and not judge others more harshly than we ourselves would want to be (Golden Rule corollary #1). In matters of love or lust, we all have exercised poor judgment in one way or another along the way. This shouldn't be about party or politics. Just "Be excellent to each other!"

D.I. in Syracuse, NY, writes: I am no fan of Andrew Cuomo. However, it bothers me that this website and so many other people are rushing to judgment to call him a serial sexual harasser/predator. Before rushing to judgment, I suggest a review of the EEOC website.

It is rather lengthy and dry, but it also gives a pretty good picture of what does and does not meet the criteria for sexual harassment. Most, if not all, of the allegations against Cuomo do not meet the criteria. This fact seems to be ignored by otherwise educated individuals to the detriment of productive discourse.

A**holes in Politics

D.K. in Iowa City, IA, writes: About your item "Why So Many Politicians Are Such A**holes," if you wanted to narrow it down to one factor, it would probably be egomania. I have worked in politics and known many politicians and highly paid executives, and almost all of them were egomaniacs. One of their wives said to me, about her husband, that he has never met a mirror he didn't like. Egomania can be benign or very evil, but it is always self-centered and selfish. It starts young and grows. An egomaniac will say "Tell me about yourself!" and then talk about himself for two hours. Or ask you "Where would you like to go to eat?" and then take you to his favorite restaurant. They aren't always bad people or bad at what they do, but we would all be better off if they weren't so much in love with themselves.

J.A.M. in Summit, NJ, writes: May I propose another explanation? A perverse form of Political Darwinism propels a**holes to the top of the political totem pole. The politicians we come to know are the successful ones, of course. Who ever remembers the politicians who fail to get elected?

A**holes have a greater chance to prevail in political infighting, because they are more likely to ignore ethical constraints that might disadvantage other more likeable, more respectable candidates. They are more willing to engage in brass-knuckle political maneuvering. Indeed, their brazen and obnoxious arrogance is an asset, not a liability, when it comes to getting elected and maintaining political power.

It's a classic case of Survival of the Fittest, but in an arena where being "fit" for the job is not an endorsement of one's good character.

J.S. in Durham, NC, writes: I was intrigued by your item "Why Are Politician's Such A**holes." While I understand that the information you presented was taken from a specific article, it seems to me that you did not acknowledge something that is common to most of the politicians who come under scrutiny for bad behavior: the vast majority are white men.

My argument is that this is a group, particularly the ones who come from privilege, who are accustomed to being able to have what they want, when they want it, without regard for anyone else.

Not that all white men view the world in this way. There are plenty who do not. But when white men get power, they often seem to feel that it is a birthright. People who do not fall into this category (people of color and women) more often understand it as a responsibility. Again not all that are in this latter category are good people (e.g., Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, etc.). But the current political landscape is very informative.

Also, I would argue that while many of our politicians have narcissistic traits and tendencies, I don't believe that most of them were "psychopaths," now called sociopaths. The former group is very taken with themselves, and believes that "the world revolves around them." The latter group sees everyone as something to be used in their own service and for their own ends, without any concern for the effects on others. While we certainly have seen the latter behavior recently, I would find it difficult to say that most presidents have been sociopaths.

A.R. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: The Politico piece you profiled could have been written about any profession. Why are so many media moguls a**holes? Why are so many lawyers a**holes? Why are so many tech giants a**holes? Why are so many coaches a**holes? You get my point.

The problem is that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Before Andrew Cuomo's sixth accuser came forward, some were minimizing the accusations to that point because they "only" involved comments about looks or personal questions about a 25 year old's sex life, or an unwanted hug or kiss (none of which is appropriate). But that is precisely what sexual harassment is—it's not really about sex, it's about power and the abuse of that power to demean and humiliate women, and destroy them when they dare speak out to discourage others from doing so. And men in powerful positions without any checks on that power, whether it gets media attention or not, are much more likely to engage in that behavior.

One of the most telling incidents with Cuomo concerned the HUD official who said she was new to the job and was meeting with Cuomo and a Treasury Dept. official, who she was meeting for the first time. She wanted to establish her credibility and expertise with this official, and in one gesture, Cuomo deliberately destroyed all of that—he came in and kissed her and humiliated her in front of him. This action was not a come-on but a power play designed to, as she said, establish himself as dominant in front of the Treasury official. This is what abuse of power looks like.

Before the sixth accuser came forward, Cuomo's behavior seemed perfectly calibrated to create the fear, degradation and intimidation he wanted while maintaining an ability to deny he was doing anything wrong. "I'm just a caveman—I don't know about your fancy ways or that asking my young staffer if she'd date an older man or whether her assault meant she couldn't be intimate with a man was wrong! I'm just a dumb guy!" This despite the fact that he had been instrumental in ushering in legislation and policies to combat workplace harassment. Apparently the buck stops with everyone but him.

When there's real accountability in every sector for this type of behavior, we'll see this behavior become the exception rather than the norm that it still is. I remember my first job out of college was as an admin assistant with a rinky-dink company outside of Atlanta. One sales associate liked to come by my desk periodically with some made-up question (I didn't work for or with him). He would deliberately stand over me right up against my chair so that I was essentially pinned at my desk—I couldn't get up without pushing my chair back into him. And he would stand there for some minutes like that hovering over me. It was frightening and stressful and very intimidating. His topics included how unhappy he was in his marriage and that his wife didn't understand him—a pretty textbook case of sexual harassment. But he never touched me and he never outright propositioned me—and he was just a salesman. Still, he knew he had power over me in that situation and he used it. What would my complaint have been? He stands too close to my desk and it skeeves me out? And how would that have affected my work there? So, imagine the Governor of New York doing something similar when he knows you have no one to go to who will do anything about your complaint.

I've experienced something similar in almost every place I've worked, including after becoming an attorney (in fact, the worst behavior I encountered was at a law firm). Most women will tell you the same thing. Online training courses aren't enough, and businesses in every sector still haven't figured out how to hold the higher-ups accountable. Look at Pinterest and other tech companies that are also grappling with this. There needs to be a greater understanding of what this abuse actually looks like and a recognition that a physical assault component is not necessary before it gets taken seriously. Again, it's about power and using sexual language and propositions to intimidate and humiliate and dominate women.

There's a great series produced by David Schwimmer that really captures what this experience is like for women.

There are a**holes everywhere and unchecked power will continue to drive this behavior.

CongressWatch 2021

K.E. in Newport, RI, writes: I never believed a $15 minimum wage would happen during this Congress, either during the budget reconciliation process or as a stand-alone bill. However, there are alternatives to raising the minimum wage that could at the very least be attempted and might have a good chance of passing Congress. I am a member of law enforcement, and the police union I belong to has been advocating for the past 10 years for overtime wages to be exempt from federal income taxes. Almost 60% of American workers are paid an hourly wage and hourly-wage workers are eligible for overtime for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. A change like this would be very beneficial for working-class and middle-class people because most members of those economic classes are paid hourly wages and it would allow them to keep more of their pay. It would also incentivize workers to be more productive. Since the wages earned in overtime would be tax-exempt, there would be no danger of overtime putting workers into a higher tax bracket.

A change like this would not place any additional regulations or taxes on businesses, since employers are already required to distinguish an employee's overtime wages from their regular wages.

There is nothing extreme or "socialist" about this proposal and it has support from people across the ideological spectrum, ranging from progressive union officials to the Republican Party of France. I could see some Republicans who represent constituencies with a lot of working-class people as well as progressives like Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) supporting such a change.

R.H. in West Grove, PA, writes: I haven't seen you guys mention a possible added benefit from reforming the filibuster to require 40 members to listen to the speaker to sustain it. It's been documented that members of Congress spend a lot of time "dialing for dollars" (i.e., calling for campaign contributions). If they're required to be in session for more time, this would, in effect, reduce the time they have for asking for campaign contributions. It would also reduce the time they have available for getting cozy with lobbyists.

S.M. in Morganton, GA, writes: Thank you for very gently reminding L.S. in Black Mountain that phone books do still exist for every ZIP code in the United States. I would like to share with your readers one more tidbit. I receive multiple phone books in the mail (or dropped off) every year. Why multiples? Because I live where three states and several phone company jurisdictions overlap. Why do I still get them? They are invaluable in rural areas. I can't tell you how many times during the pandemic I have been able to contact a neighbor I had met but whose number I did not know by using my up-to-date phone books. Then there are the piles of old-school businesses in my area that still do not have a formal Internet presence.

I know this is not true in urban areas. In 13 years in Portland, OR, I never saw a phone book. That does not mean they are not a vital part of communication infrastructure in some areas of the country, though.

D.B. in Queens, NY, writes: I saw the question about the length of bills and wanted to add my two cents. As a tax attorney, I have seen my share of new bills introduced and passed in the last few years. Much of the length has to do with the complexity and the number of issues that bills try to address. However, they are also so long because the typeface and page setting that is used is really large and terrible. If you look at one of these bills, only about half of the space on a page is used and the font is huge. In addition, the federal code has gotten so complex and interlinked that there are entire pages related just to updating cross references. On Thursday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced a 68-page tax bill that largely eliminates parts of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. For each time that the bill cuts out a piece of the U.S. Code, there is then a page of provisions updating all the cross references to that code section in 20 other code sections.

J.H. in Bloomfield Hills, MI, writes: I disagree with your justification to G.M. of Scarsdale, as to why legislation should be long and complex. Most state constitutions have a "single object" clause that requires legislation to comprise only one subject matter. Legislators in those states cannot insert into a bill matters not related to the subject matter of the bill. That process makes legislation more efficient and makes legislators more accountable. The model works.

By contrast, the current congressional practice promotes all kinds of chicanery. In the usual practice, a senator or representative slips into a "must-pass" bill (typically a defense authorization bill or an appropriation bill) pork that benefits their district or a provision that benefits a donor. The process forces senators and representatives to hold their noses and vote for a bill even though it contains objectionable material (or to claim that they didn't have time to read the bill). The process necessarily spirals out of control because each senator or representative quickly sees the benefit of hiding their favorable clauses in unrelated but must-pass legislation.

Consider the Snail Darter case, a prime example from environmental law (my field). Environmentalists persuaded the Supreme Court to uphold an injunction preventing the closing of the Tellico Dam based on unambiguous language in the Endangered Species Act. The project proposed to flood not only the endangered habitat of the fish but also ancestral Cherokee lands and prime agricultural areas in the Little Tennessee River Valley, all for a project that failed every cost-benefit analysis. Months later, the Tennessee delegation slipped into an appropriations bill in a nearly empty House chamber an unrelated command to TVA to close the dam, damming the last free-flowing tributary of the Tennessee River.

Your argument that legislative complexity reduces court challenges and exploitation of loopholes does not survive close examination. Each provision of a bill adds or modifies some title of the U.S. Code. The language of the affected section of the statutes, once enacted, stands on its own, subject to court challenge or loophole-discovery without regard to the unrelated parts of the bill. Using your example of the income tax law, accretions to the tax code create complexity not because of multifarious bills, but because loopholes are discovered and then widened or closed through the continuing synthesis of IRS guidance, court interpretations, and further congressional action.

I doubt that we will ever see a constitutional amendment requiring federal legislation to be single-object. Congress will never pass it and no real constituency favors it. It would pass only if included in a package of amendments from a constitutional convention, but that process would expose the Constitution to the knives of those who want to cut away the good parts.

B.C. in Hertfordshire, UK, writes: I chuckled when I read your item about Marjorie Taylor-Greene and others annoying everyone by brainlessly forcing votes in the House over non-issues. A similar practice has been occurring here in the U.K. for some years, whereby a small clique of Conservative members take turns objecting to supposedly uncontroversial bills. And in 2018, this childish behavior spectacularly exploded in the face of one such member.

The general procedure is that, at the end of a day's business, a list of non-controversial bills is read in the House of Commons and, if no member objects (by shouting "Object"), then the bills pass on to their next stage with no need for a vote. If there is an objection then the bill must be re-presented to the House at a later date, and this often results in bills failing because they simply run out of Parliamentary time. One of the customary hooligans is 73-year-old Sir Christopher Chope, the "honourable" member for the ultra-genteel, ultra-conservative seat of Christchurch on England's south coast. (Google him and you will find yourself looking at the very picture of a quintessential English Tory dinosaur.)

Well, in 2018, one of the bills in question was intended to make a criminal offence of the obnoxious practice known as "upskirting." Surely no one but a pervert could find this a controversial piece of legislation? But no! Old Chopey got to his feet and objected, to boos and hisses from all around the House. It's quite possible that the old diplodocus didn't even know, at the time, what upskirting is, and thought that the bill was just some woolly liberal feminist nonsense—but he very quickly found out! Previously, almost no one in England had even heard of the daft old duffer but, overnight, his name became known nationwide in the worst possible way. One woman even made a string of her knickers (panties) and draped it across the front of his constituency office, and a similar string of knickers was draped by persons unknown across the door of his office in the House of Commons!

Anyway, these procedural shenanigans are largely unnoticed by the public at large but Chopey really catapulted himself into the public consciousness over the upskirting bill! In England, his name is now a synonym for a purple-faced old man who, in his head, still lives in the 19th Century. Also, "a Chope" is now a synonym for a man who likes taking, and/or looking at, upskirt photos. Oops!

The moral of the story for MTG and her ilk is obvious: if you are going to behave like an adolescent having a tantrum, at least make sure you understand what it is you are objecting to!

Incidentally, the upskirting bill did eventually become law after the government of the day threw its weight behind it (but if it hadn't been adopted as official government business, then Chope's juvenile behavior would certainly have killed it).

The Wealth of Nations

F.M. in Hatfield, PA, writes: P.M. in Currituck asked if inflation was a risk from a large spending bill like the American Rescue Plan. I wish to give a common-person explanation as to why the risk is exceptionally small.

Inflation is when more relative dollars chase after the same relative number of goods and services; if the number of dollars stays the same but the supply drops, prices increase; if the supply remains the same but the number of dollars increases, prices increase.

Under this bill, we have more dollars chasing certain goods and services, which providers of the same have extra production capacity to provide. So, while the number of dollars might increase, the supply will increase as well, tending to keep prices stable. Plus, if one provider has enough capacity, they might even offer their wares at a slightly lower price to pick up extra business due to the extra money running around, further reducing inflationary pressure.

One obvious question is "Wouldn't this cause inflation economy-wide, though?" The answer is "not likely" because the source of this money is new federal debt, the overwhelming majority of which comes from Americans buying Treasury bills/bonds. As a result, we have money coming out of one part of the economy "over here" and being re-injected into the economy "over there," keeping the total number of dollars chasing goods and services economy-wide in relative balance.

This is a bit of an oversimplification of the phenomenon at hand and yet I think it works well as a first-order approximation.

J.K. in Short Hills, NJ, writes: In response to P.M.'s question and your elbow nudge, I have argued that the biggest—and perhaps the only—bone to pick with the $1.9 trillion stimulus package is that it could push up consumer prices beyond what is desired. So, what is "desired?" The Federal Reserve has a 2% long run target for inflation. One might ask, "why do we want any inflation?" Many households have significant fixed debt obligations (e.g., a mortgage). If prices rise, then wages almost certainly will as well. Payments to a lender should therefore be at lower percentage of income, thereby making the debt easier to service.

Federal Open Market Committee Chair Jerome Powell and his colleagues last year announced that they will tolerate inflation climbing moderately above 2% (i.e., 2.25-2.75%) for some period (i.e., at least a few years) to make up for its staying below that benchmark for nearly all of the post-financial crisis period. Most "experts" recognize that the two key barometers of consumer prices, the Core CPI and Core PCE (the Fed's preferred gauge), will likely push somewhat above 2% temporarily in the spring because of the comparable readings from the shutdown last March-May (i.e., the "base effect"). Thanks to an accelerating vaccination program and the magnitude of the Biden support package, it will be the months and quarters that follow that will determine which side of this reasonable debate will win.

In my opinion, the biggest difference between the current environment and the post-Great Recession recovery was the latter followed an endogenous shock while Covid-19 was exogenous, which tends to be sharp but of shorter duration, theoretically allowing the economy to return to its prior trend more quickly. Moreover, the amount of fiscal stimulus is much larger presently on a percentage basis of GDP than that from twelve years ago. The services sector was obliterated by the virus, with many providers leaving their respective markets. Bank accounts have swelled with the assumption being that herd immunity will precipitate a deluge of pent-up demand to lift prices beyond what the Fed wants to force the central bank to act, which might foment an economic soft patch or even an outright recession thanks to higher interest rates curbing future borrowing. Many commodity prices have already climbed to multiyear peaks and longer dated treasury yields are above those prior to the pandemic in anticipation. Hence, I suspect that inflation could become problematic in early 2022 with an economic contraction being possible by the heart of the 2024 election season. To be fair, while I would put former Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and the "bond vigilantes" in my camp, there are plenty of smart people, most notably Powell and Janet Yellen, in the other. Stay tuned.

J.G. in San Diego, CA, writes: I'm not an economist and I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. But it seems to me there are many reasons why inflation has been kept in check and will continue to be so:

  • There is no competition for goods. We saw some inflation at the beginning of the pandemic. I paid $20 for a flat of paper towels at Vons at one point. There simply weren't enough paper towels, everyone wanted them, so merchants charged more for them. But then they...made more. The price is back down. There is no chance this will be a problem after the stimulus. People are going to want a wide variety of goods and services, and there are plenty of dishwashers and plumbers to go around. Merchants can still compete for dollars, so there is no reason to think that if Best Buy starts to run low on TVs they will raise the price, since Target and Walmart and Costco and local merchants may not raise their prices. And by the time supply is a problem, production will increase.

  • Money sequestration by the wealthy. This is why recent money injections haven't led to inflation. Bush 43 and Trump gave huge amounts of money to the extraordinarily wealthy who...stuck it in the bank, or paid nominally more for real estate, or traveled to Europe. None of that runs any risk whatsoever of raising the cost of milk and dishwashers in rural Alabama.

  • The fungible price of goods and the psychology of price points. Inflation doesn't happen as much in circumstances where there is a strong psychological pressure for a certain price point. For example, Costco really wants to sell whole rotisserie chickens for $4.99. They are willing to lose money to sell chickens for $4.99 because it is part of their sales pitch. "We sell chicken for $4.99." Someday, Costco will say, "We just can't do it, chickens are now $5.99" and there will be massive news stories about it. People will cancel their memberships. Executives may get fired. That is how strongly there is a psychological pressure to keep the cost of that good at $4.99. Other companies have similar psychological price points that tend to oppose price increases.

  • The competing direction of efficiency and technical improvement. Our "knowledge economy" has led to forces that tend to oppose inflation. I have paid about $1,500-$2,000 for my primary laptop for 20 years. The computer I bought 2 years ago is way more powerful and thinner and lighter than the one I bought for the same price 5 years ago, etc. If I wanted to buy the current version of my laptop it would be...yep, about $1700. Simply giving more people the means to purchase technological equipment doesn't necessarily make it more expensive. Maybe it leads to the discovery of a cheaper manufacturing process and prices stay the same or go down. Maybe it creates a market for used equipment, and people sell their old equipment and use the money to buy new equipment...everyone gets an upgrade on their current equipment, without an increase in price.

  • The modern economy has never had a liquidity problem and never will thanks to the availability of debt-funded financial instruments. Our economy already has the built in capacity to handle a stimulus like this because the potential for this money is already built into our economy. It is unlikely people will get $1,400 and suddenly find need to spend all $1,400 when they could already have done that with credit cards (at a higher cost).

In summary, I simply can't imagine a situation where prices go up substantially due to the stimulus. I think people will use some of their stimulus to pay down debt, which is (weirdly) a way of investing in the future. I think people will use some of their stimulus to buy goods at their current cost, and businesses will replace those goods out of storage or from suppliers at about the same price. I think companies will compete for business with sales and people will still shop for bargains. I simply can't imagine a world in which, say, TVs become so scarce, prices go up substantially.

L.S. in Greensboro, NC, writes: I want to applaud you for pointing out that low interest rates aren't all good. It is incredibly frustrating to me that most media coverage and comments from politicians indicate that low interest rates are an unmitigated good thing. While no one wants excessively high interest rates, extremely low interest rates have a lot of bad implications, too. As you pointed out, they can lead to an increase in speculative investments. They punish savers, who aren't rewarded for living within their means. They force people to be more aggressive in their retirement savings, since only the stock market provides the necessary returns, yet adds risk which people used to be able to avoid by investing in high quality government and corporate bonds returning 6-8%. They hurt retirees, who used to be able to live on the interest from CDs and bonds but can no longer do so. And they hurt the financial services industry, which relies on interest margins and which employs millions of people in good jobs and provides significant investment in local communities.

Clearly the best approach is a happy medium with interest rates in the historic range (3-5% on 10 year Treasuries, for example). I wish more commentators would point this out.

Neanderthal's Guide, Part I: CP vs. POC

L.A. in Belmont, MA, writes: S.S. in Detroit asked why "person of color" is preferred to "colored person." Putting the noun (person/woman/man/child) before the descriptor (of color) shows respect by emphasizing the person's humanity as the most important thing rather than the description. It is the same with talking about a "person experiencing homelessness" rather than a "homeless person" or a "person with a disability" rather than a "disabled person" or a "person experiencing a substance use disorder" rather than a "drug-addicted person."

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: Regarding the inquiry from S.S. from Detroit and your response, my speculation is the "people of color" is preferable to "colored people," not simply because the latter is largely outdated (though of course is the "CP" in "NAACP"), but because of the emphasis suggested by the word order, the first word being the more important one. "Colored people" focuses on the colored nature of the people; they are colored and also people (this is why the term was a step up from the dehumanizing terms of the 19th Century and earlier). "People of color," however, focuses on the humanity of the subject; they are people first, who are also "of color." It's a similar evolution from "slaves" to "enslaved people," which is the term I see nearly exclusively now, which draws more focus to the humanity of the enslavers' victims. It would not shock me if, in the future, we find a phrase ("people of bondage"?) that does the same refocus as does "people of color" now.

My other thought was that some readers might be rolling their eyes at "political correctness run amok." I would urge them to consider specific instances of so-called "political correctness" as the simple kindness and respect shown by calling people what they want to be called, which is exactly what S.S. is asking about their grandchild. It's just like when speaking for the first time with someone I've only e-mailed with in business, I'll ask, for example, "Do you prefer Ron or Ronald?" I do accept that there are "PC" overreaches that would elicit an eye-roll even from me—that round metal thing in the middle of the road is not a "personhole cover," and if someone asserts otherwise, I'll think of them as another kind of hole. But for the vast majority of situations, it is not a burden for a white man, such as I, to try to keep up with a group's or individual's preferred terminology, and to refer to and address them that way. It's simply choosing to be polite and respectful of others.

C.K. in Rochester, NY, writes: I'd like to expand on your statement that the term "colored people" is considered outdated and pejorative. Several years ago, in my work with people who are legally blind, I was informed that I should not use the term "blind person." A person who is blind would rather see the emphasis on their humanity rather than the inability to see. To say, "person who is legally blind," "person with a mental handicap," "person of color," etc. recognizes that the "personhood" is more important than the adjective. It felt silly to me at first, but after working with people who can't see and/or who have physical and mental disabilities, it has struck a powerful chord!

J.C. in Maui County, HI, writes: I work in a field that has lots of interaction with people who study/work in diversity, equity and inclusion and my own work is currently moving in that direction. It would be entirely incorrect to say that "people of color" is "entirely correct." I am brown, and my unease with the term was made clear to me last year when I saw someone make the argument that if "people of color" = "non-white," then by inference "people" = "white." This unease is ratcheted up when it used by a white person to describe Black and brown people in a monolithic way. And we are not monolithic at all, even on this topic. Ask 100 Black and brown folks what labels they identify with and you're likely to get much more than 100 answers. Some may even identify as "person of color."

Based on the amount of conversation on this topic on Twitter over the last year, I am one of many, many folks who does not prefer the term POC/BIPOC (which stands for Black Indigenous People of Color). To people wondering what to use instead, there is no current fully acceptable and agreed upon word to take the place of POC/BIPOC. The current leaders in the field (in my opinion) are instead listing as many separate ethnicities and races as it makes sense to do for the topic they are discussing while also acknowledging that this is an evolving topic and that they are imperfect.

In any event, because of my work with trends, I would give it only 3-10 years before "people of color" seems as dated as "colored people."

S.R. in Robbinsville, NJ, writes: Regarding S.S. in Detroit's question, "what is the difference between people of color and colored people?," this has been an issue in Bloom County since 1988:

A middle-aged character has a conversation with
his senior citizen mother in which she fails to grasp the distinction between 'negroes,' 'colored people' and 'people of color'

Neanderthal's Guide, Part II: Non-Binary Advice

A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: I am also an unreconstructed hippie, and a grouchy old curmudgeon.

Like S.S. in Detroit I would also like someone who can in a non-medical, dissertation explain in everyday language what the varied differences and nuances are. Not necessarily printed at length on your site, but at least a link to the "Cliff Notes" version or the "LGBTQ for dummies" site.

I have a daughter who is an L and I am always tip-toeing around to not offend her. I love her and she knows I do, and I don't want to offend her, but sometimes I say the wrong thing and I can see that it hurts. I know I am not perfect but I am trying to get better.

V & Z respond: Ask and ye shall receive.

C.K. in Albuquerque, NM, writes: Thank you for opening the floor for others to weigh in on S.S. from Detroit's question regarding how to refer to their non-binary grandchild.

I would think that the biggest thing to keep in mind about non-binary genders are that they encompass an entire spectrum, and the meaning of each tends to be quite personal. There are those who consider themselves non-binary because they identify with both the male and female genders, those who consider themselves non-binary because they identify with neither, and those who consider themselves non-binary because they identify with something else entirely. If you want an extreme case, we happen to feel like four "souls"/split personalities/"voices in our head"/(whatever you want to call them based on your spiritual or psychological belief system) sharing one physical body, and we have two women, a man, and one genderless "none of the above" person in our system. Our pronouns depend on which one of us you're referring to. So, no need to disparage yourself for your inexperience with this topic; it definitely gets complicated in a hurry, and that's understandable. If anything, you should be commended for reaching out like this.

The best thing you can do is what you're already doing: Ask, research, and attempt to educate yourself on the matter. Don't ask your grandchild to explain the full depths of their identity to you if they weren't already planning to, since that would be a very invasive and personal question. However, if they do choose to open up to you, listen and be accepting and supportive of whatever they have to say. Avoid making assumptions or treating any one answer as speaking for the entire spectrum and everyone on it. The advice to ask for and use your grandchild's preferred name and pronouns is solid. Other than that, your grandchild knows themselves and their gender better than we on the Internet ever could.

G.A. in Nashville, TN, writes: I am the father of a 15-year-old transgender son. I too was at a loss at first because I frankly did not understand. Same for my parents, who live nearby and are very close to my son, their oldest grandchild. My best advice to S.S. is to learn all that you can and never be afraid to ask questions. You can direct those questions to your grandchild or their parents as both will feel a great deal of support by seeing you take such an interest. My son changed to a male name a couple of years ago and last year got a legal name change. It makes him so happy to hear the family call him by his new name—indeed, it may be the single most supportive thing you can do. On behalf of all parents of trans children, thank you so much for your compassion and support.

B.F. in Berea, KY, writes: What a great idea to ask for information about LGBTQ+ people! Not everyone is willing to do their homework, so S.S. from Detroit is to be commended. I recommend perusing the Human Rights Campaign website. The Resources tab has lots of helpful information for those seeking to understand more.

S.M. in Acton, MA, writes: First, I want to applaud the bravery and love of both S.S. and their grandchild. S.S., you are looking for a way to support and love your family member, and they are lucky to have someone like you for a grandparent.

As (V) and (Z) said, asking them how they want to be addressed is a good start. Ask what pronouns they would like to use, and what name you should call them by. This shows that you are listening and supporting them. Asking them about how they identify is an act of love. It can be hard to change the way you think of someone after knowing them all their life, so it is good to practice talking about them and thinking about them using their new name/pronouns. Try to avoid referencing "when they were a girl" or "when their name was ___."

Here are a couple good resources for family members of nonbinary/trans people who may be new to the concepts. First, "Understanding Non-Binary People: How to be respectful and supportive" from the National Center for Transgender Equality (the whole site is very informative). Second, from the organization PFLAG, a booklet for families of trans and "gender expansive" children and young adults, entitled "Our Trans Loved Ones." It's long, but you can start with the FAQ and the glossary.

As I said, your grandchild is lucky to have someone like you actively working to support and love them no matter what. I wish you and your family the best.

M.H. in Raleigh, NC, writes: In response to S.S. from Detroit, as a parent of a child who has questioned their gender, and as a friend and colleague of a few trans individuals, I found this Trans Ally Guide from PFLAG incredibly helpful in understanding.

K.S. in Medford, MA, writes: Words have power and how we talk about people and to them tells them what we think about them—or can at least be perceived to do so, and can convey the same ideas to others who hear us and read us.

It's better to avoid saying "my grandchild identifies as non-binary." Rather, say "my grandchild is non-binary." When you (or others) include "identifies as," it conveys the idea that the person isn't actually that gender, they're just saying that they are. It carries the message that their gender identity isn't valid and that it's ok for others to act accordingly.

Similarly, it's best to avoid saying "their preferred pronouns are..." whatever they are. If you have a friend whose pronouns are he/him then say that "my friend's pronouns are he/him" and not "my friend's preferred pronouns are he/him." Including "preferred" also conveys the idea that those pronouns aren't the person's "true" pronouns and that one is only using them out of politeness rather than considering them valid.

Someone describing me could say "K.S. is a trans woman and her pronouns are 'she/her'."

Things like this convey that you understand the person's gender identity to be valid.

For more information, including a table which discusses how to avoid outdated and invalidating ways of talking about folks who aren't the genders people thought they were as an infant, GLAAD maintains a pretty good document here.

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: I have 3 kids, aged 16-20. They are quite well versed in the new nomenclature of racial and gender awareness. And they are happy to share. It seems to me that this is embedded in the culture of Gen Z. Yes, we live in the hippy-dippy Bay Area, but my son goes to Eastern Michigan University, which has a lot of students from the "Kentucky" parts of Michigan and his anecdotes indicate to me that these rural kids are up on the language as well.

My advice to S.S. when speaking with their grandchild is to be curious. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it is also the key to asking questions in a way that shows respect and a desire to learn. I'll offer a recent example. This is a text exchange:

Son: Guess who has a date next week? They go to U-M and we met on a dating app.

Me: "They" as in non-binary or "they" as in you are being obscure about gender?

Son: They are enby.

Me: What is enby?

Son: NB usually refers to non-black and is reserved for the BIPOC community. So...enby for non-binary.

I'll add that BIPOC means Black, Indigenous, People of Color. This is something he taught me a few months ago as it became a popular phrase.

I only know one non-binary person personally. It takes a lot of mental power to substitute "they/them" for "she/her." I have learned that they have a lot of grace for times when I slip up and use female pronouns. They certainly appreciate the effort, which is worth it to me because they are an awesome person and I am happy to have them as a colleague.

So just approach your grandchild with an open mind and a beginner's curiosity. You'll learn a lot and deepen your relationship. I hope you'll write in to let us all know how it goes.

T.L. in West Orange, NJ, writes: I teach physics to high schoolers, so interact with teens on a regular basis. Given that, and that my own teenager has recently adopted "they/them" pronouns and has changed their preferred name, I completely agree that asking your grandchild for their preferred pronouns is a terrific first step, and not one that would imply any sort of disapproval. I would also note that if they're on social media in any form, they probably have their preferred pronouns listed there, which means that if you can look at any such medium you might be able to determine those pronouns without even asking. (You could also ask their parents, of course.) The simple act of recognizing their pronoun shift and acknowledging it as valid will speak volumes to them.

When you do find out their pronouns, I think it's also helpful to say in advance something on the order of "I'll do my best to use those from now on, but know that given X years of inertia I'm probably going to mess up sometimes. Please correct me if and when I do." From my own experience, they won't be shy about correcting you.

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: FWIW, as you well know I am trans, and I have to say your response to S.S. in Detroit concerning his non-binary grandchild is absolutely spot on, and S.S. is to be commended for asking the question! If only that had been the response from my family members when I came out as trans in 1994. Incidentally, mom and I are tight now, but it wasn't that way at the beginning. So, for my sisters, brothers and siblings who identify trans or non-binary, I am here to tell you there is hope. An initial "rejection" is not forever...but as with any relationship, it has to be worked at and both involved have to want it.

S.B. in New Castle, DE, writes: S.S. asked about the term "non binary" with regards to an out-of-state grandchild. First: "great question!" That's the mark of a loving family member. Second: "great first reply" with regard to your suggestion that they ask the child about their preferred pronouns, that's a huge first step in demonstrating a loving acceptance.

Non-binary simply means the person doesn't feel in their heart and soul that their gender matches the sex that DNA has dealt them, nor do they feel quite fully the opposite side of the gender spectrum, like transgender people. Non-binary people (NBs, or "inn-bees," as they sometimes like to call themselves) fall somewhere in between male and female or feel that gender is just a social construct that doesn't apply to them at all. As a transgender woman, I confess that my evolution of understanding my gender identity did go through a phase of thinking I was non-binary. That's not uncommon. Since becoming an LGBTQ+ activist, I've met many NBs who fully embrace their they/them pronouns and unique gender presentations. While DNA is hard science, gender is truly a cognitive spectrum. Again, pats on the back and hugs to S.S., you're doing great. Once you've made clear your love of your grandchild regardless of gender, let them fill you in on their specifics of how they view themselves. That will give you the 100% correct answer on the topic and build a deep, meaningful relationship. And P.S., don't be afraid if you mess up with the they/them pronouns from time to time. Better to try, fail, and apologize than to not try at all. It happens to the best of us!

Guns, Pigs, and Steel

P.S. in Arlington, TN, writes: Responses to my comments on Beto O'Rourke in Texas are missing the point. The objective for the Democratic Party is to "Turn Texas Blue." This will be a more complicated task than in states like Georgia or North Carolina due to less favorable demographics, and so will require better candidates that fit the state. As the family outlaw who broke from the GOP over Trump, I'm well aware of what it might take to flip additional voters, but I'm also well aware of what will cause the Biden coalition to evaporate.

Texas is a wide-open state with extremely large rural areas. Many suburban voters own or lease land outside of the city that they use to hunt. Those that don't own or lease nonetheless know many who own land used to hunt. Guns are a big part of everyone's lives. Those who don't own an AR know someone who does and they're mostly good law-abiding people. They don't care to compromise with anyone over that issue when they can simply vote for politicians who support their right or their neighbor's right to own an AR. They are open to changing laws that don't result in extreme invasions of their privacy.

Barging into a law-abiding citizen's house and saying, ""Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47" may play well in Boston but if you think you're going to win statewide elections in Dallas, Tarrant, and Denton suburbs you might want to reconsider your position. These areas are loaded with college-educated white and Latino moderates who don't particularly care for O'Rourke's rhetoric on the topic of gun confiscation. Turning out higher numbers like Stacy Abrams did is not enough—you need to flip voters.

Some of the people I know who own these guns are fed up with Trump, but they are very scared of Democrats because of comments exactly like O'Rourke's. My Father has told me that "Nancy Pelosi plans to take all our handguns" and has also told me, "Nancy Pelosi has said she wants to "'nationalize' everyone's 401k". Despite that, you'd be shocked to know that he also confided in me that he'd consider voting for "Uncle Joe" in the Spring of 2018 because he was fed up with Trump on trade. My Mother might have divorced him over that statement! O'Rourke's comments played to the caricature that Republicans have been very successful in creating.

Dad graduated from Villanova and is wealthy. He grew up in New York City as the grandson of Russian speaking immigrants. There are a ton of voters who fit this profile if hit with the correct message. How about laws that increase accountability for those that leave their AR on the coffee table in the morning, right before their kid with a known mental health issue goes to school? What if Joe Biden reinstituted Free Trade in America? What if an "Uncle Joe" candidate hit Republicans on things they do that are "socialist" or increase the size of government? The Republican Party platform is vastly different than it was in January of 2016 and that can be exploited. Here's to hoping that Democrats figure out the secret sauce they need in Texas as long as the GQP is "The Party of Trump".

A.B. in Jonesboro, AR, writes: I felt I should write in to clarify a point to some of your readers on P.S. in Arlington's letter about shooting hogs. Most likely P.S.'s family is dealing with an infestation of wild hogs that are quite destructive to lands, including increasing erosion and out competing native animals for food and such. Even here in northern Arkansas, we have a problem with them, though not as bad as Texas, in general.

While still being a moderate, and interested in limiting military-style assault weapons, I would say that these types of weapons are quite efficient at hog reduction, both at distance (since these animals begin to avoid humans due to the reduction efforts) and in larger numbers (you tend to end up with small herds of these animals moving together).

My dad and I generally go with lower tech, large caliber shotgun slugs or lever action rifles, in our hog-reduction efforts. I can say with certainty that a .22 caliber rifle at 1,000 feet will not be effective against this environmental menace. So, while not our choice to use AR-15s and the like, I can understand why some might look to that as a tool to aid in this particular task.

E.K.H. in San Antonio, TX, writes: To all the people who wrote in regarding the person who used an AR-15 to kill hogs:

Feral hogs are a serious nuisance in Texas. I live in a not-very-rural suburban part of San Antonio with a lot of "green space." One of my neighbors, whose house backs up to the green space, spent a lot of money having his yard landscaped, only to have a family of feral hogs tear it up. They can weigh as much as 300 pounds and the males have tusks up to 5" long. They're dangerous.

Feral hogs can be hunted year round in Texas and residents do not have to have a license to kill them. I can see why someone might want to use an AR-15 to hunt them.

M.D. in Peterborough, UK, writes: I was interested in the suggestion by P.S. in Portland that gun licences could be progressively more onerous for more powerful weapons. We have such a system here in the U.K., albeit limited to two "levels":

  1. A shotgun certificate cannot be unreasonably withheld if applied for, and the Police have to demonstrate why you shouldn't have a shotgun. That may include a criminal record, or a history of mental health problems tending to destructive behavior. You don't have to say why you want a shotgun in your application.

  2. For a "firearm" (a rifle) you have to demonstrate a good reason for wanting one: almost always hunting, sport, or countryside-management related, and the competence, mental health, and criminal background checks are tougher.

For either, you must have a lockable metal cabinet affixed to two walls, or a wall and the floor, which is inspected by a police constable annually.

It is a myth that gun ownership is entirely illegal or even that rare in the U.K., although it's almost impossible to legally own a handgun as a private citizen, except in Northern Ireland. The latter is also the only part of the U.K. where personal protection is a legitimate reason for applying for a firearm certificate, and where a firearm may be carried loaded and/or concealed in a public place.

Ted R. Cruz, Will You Please Go Now?

J.T. in Marietta, GA, writes: In the discussion about Seuss-gate, did you look at the article that S.O.F. in Montclair cited as an example of "canceling" Dr. Seuss? It's authored by Katie Ishizuka and Ramon Stephens* (the asterisk seems to be a part of the name—there's no corresponding note). The paper utilizes a social science format, with sections for "Background," "Literature Review," "Findings," etc. Such a format is typical for data-oriented disciplines such as sociology and psychology, thus lending it some additional aura of scientific credibility. This is probably why S.O.F. cites it as a "report" and not as an "article."

However, the content hinges largely on the application of critical race theory to Dr. Seuss's books. There are no statistics or original data collection, other than the author's own interpretations of the texts and illustrations. I would classify very few of their bibliographic sources as social science. Stephens, it turns out, is a graduate student in Education at UCSD. Ishizuka is his partner. Her credentials are unclear: although her name is listed as teaching human development courses at UCSD, she's not listed as faculty on the website. And yet this article has been frequently cited in the popular press as an important "study," as though it were in some way authoritative. I think this is largely due to its assuming some of the trappings of social science research, without itself being actual social science.

Interdisciplinary research can be rewarding, but in the wrong hands it can be a minefield.

B.R.D. in Columbus, OH, writes: I thought you and your readers might be interested in this Dr. Seuss cartoon. Please note that the red-tag sale on the bottom left refers to a sale the book club, who put the cartoon on its cover, was having at the time, many years ago!

A man is handing out 'ostrich bonnets' to cure 'Hitler headaches'

This image seems appropriate, whereas the use of stereotypical images for Asian Americans and Black people does not—ever, of course, but especially at a time when both groups face heightened threats, attacks, and both overt and subtle racism that too frequently ends in death. I have no doubt Dr. Seuss would himself wish he could take back those cartoons, at least some of which were used for propaganda.

As Sam Keen points out in a still-relevant 1987 documentary called "Faces of the Enemy," which should be required viewing for all Americans, waging war requires the dehumanization of the enemy. The propaganda favorites, used by all sides (he shows some American "news" reels from WWII along with images from many other cultures), are rodents and insects, along with disease. It's disheartening to see those metaphors and images appear like clockwork for imaginary wars with perceived enemies, including for every wave of immigrants and refugees to this country, including the Irish, Italians, and Germans in times past. We must continue to call it out whenever we see it.

P.S. in Gloucester, MA, writes: Cancel culture or no cancel culture, I will continue to refer to the Senate Minority Leader as Yertle.

Watch Your Language

J.E. in San Jose, CA, writes: In terms of readability and precision, the best compromise would be to say, in A.R.'s example, "the U.S. has administered a vaccine to 12 million people." The use of "a" alludes to there being more than one, which is useful information for the reader.

J.T. in Greensboro, NC, writes: The item about New York Times headlines reminds me of a lesson I've been teaching each semester for the last couple of years regarding readability and sentiment. I review an interesting article with my college students, where the authors use sentiment metrics to show a yawning gap between headline sentiment and the sentiment of the story. That is to say, when it comes to most major news sources, the headlines are vastly more frightening and negative than the actual stories. This is important to talk about with college students, who self-report to me that they frequently rely on their social media feeds as a primary source of news. No wonder we're all anxious and depressed all of the time now. No wonder "doomscrolling" was in the running for word of the year.

One wonders if this data driven headline curation is a contributing factor to increased polarization of U.S. politics.

J.E. in Bellevue, WA, writes: This was probably unintentional on your part, but the choice of the word "problematic" is, well, problematic.

Sexual harassment and casual racism (or any racism, for that matter) have always been problematic. It's not era-dependent. Perhaps a better phrasing might have been: "less likely to be met with public criticism." Sure, it's more wordy, but more accurate.

S.A.S. in Seattle, WA, writes: All due respect to W.S. in Austin, but the second vowel sound in "Nixon" is a schwa—not a hardened, short "o". This makes for stronger rhymes with "in" than with "on":

The Scandalous President Nixon
was ousted for putting the fix in.
Though decades have passed,
the outrage was vast.
We've never stopped getting our licks in.
Everywhere Around the World...They're Coming to America

B.R.D. in Columbus, OH, writes: I don't have a suggestion for anyone you may have missed in your list of ten best immigrants in American history, but I would certainly add the creation of public libraries all over this country and the U.K. to Andrew Carnegie's accomplishments. The Wikipedia list for Carnegie libraries in the United States is lengthy, noting 1,687 of them. Only Alaska and Delaware have no public Carnegie libraries. There are also 109 academic Carnegie libraries. You are absolutely right to note his downsides, but boy, did he ever use his wealth to support the right of everyone to gain knowledge. And then there are the museums and the music venues like Carnegie Hall. Again according to Wikipedia, during the last 18 years of his life, he gave away almost 90% of his wealth. (Perhaps a useful way to avoid an estate tax?) Maybe it had something to do with his being able to get an education as a poor child at a school that existed only because of a rich donor...

P.B. in Mequon, WI, writes: I would recommend that you consider Albert Gallatin to the list of greatest U.S. Immigrants. Gallatin immigrated from Switzerland to the new U.S. in the 1780s. He became one of the intellectual leaders of the new Democratic-Republican Party during the political battles of the 1790s, serving in the U.S. Senate before becoming Thomas Jefferson's Treasury Secretary. Gallatin helped drive through the transformation of the nation's economic policy away from Alexander Hamilton's program of economic protectionism, but kept his predecessor's financial system. He also helped bring down the national debt, and preserved the nation's finances during the War of 1812 (as well as serving as the one of the negotiators for the Treaty of Ghent). Gallatin also served as a diplomat in France and the U.K. from 1816 to 1823, before returning to the U.S. and being a failed VP candidate for James Crawford in 1824.

I would say that Gallatin did as much as Hamilton to establish the U.S. financial system.

A.W. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: How about Pierre Charles L'Enfant (France), the architect who designed Washington, DC?

J.B. in Raleigh, NC, writes: Musician Sergei Rachmaninoff (Russia).

S.K. in Chappaqua, NY, writes: As regards your observation about Albert Einstein: "He contributed rather substantially to American victory in World War II, even if he was horrified that Harry S. Truman decided to actually use the atomic bomb. His contributions to science, and to the world at large, are obviously legendary." In terms of words like "best" and "impact," you are 100% right.

As a proud Jew whose ancestors came from Europe (and whose sister-in-law's grandfather was a close friend of Einstein in New Jersey), I would have been upset had you not said what you did, and someone who was co-authoring a book about Heisenberg until my co-author suddenly died, I fear Americans misunderstand Einstein's politically vital but scientifically trivial role in World War II. Enrico Fermi, also an immigrant, was far more involved in the actual work, even though the bomb would probably never have been developed had Einstein not done what he did in Europe before emigrating. Immigrants Hans Bethe and especially Leo Szilard were also more involved scientifically in the United States than was Einstein.

V & Z respond: Yes, but it was Einstein who put the idea of the Manhattan Project in Franklin Roosevelt's head.

D.S. in Highland Park, IL, writes: I would like to cast a vote for Enrico Fermi (Italy). A legend among physicists (yes, I am one, of the astro- type), Fermi was both a brilliant theoretician and experimentalist, a rarity at that level of physicists. While Albert Einstein's contributions are indeed legendary, Fermi probably made more direct contributions to the development of the atomic bomb by creating the world's first nuclear reactor. (I have read that when they created the first sustained chain reaction, they sent a coded message to colleagues at Columbia, "The Italian navigator has landed in the new world." Of course, this did not provide much detail, and the question returning from New York was "How were the natives?" The response from Chicago: "Friendly.")

To be sure, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of scientists, engineers and mathematicians who came to the United States and made enormous contributions to the world's knowledge, and Einstein is certainly an iconic member of this group. But I hope you can give Enrico Fermi at least a most honorable mention if you update this list.

S.J. in Waco, TX, writes: Love the site and have never commented, but you missed Nikola Tesla (Croatia). I suppose he and Einstein fit in the same lane, but his impact on the economy and daily life with A/C power warrant a position on the list.

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: It's hard to quibble with your list of top-ten immigrants (because which of them would you knock off the list for any of these?), but here are some honorable mentions:

Nikola Tesla
John Lennon (U.K.)
Elie Wiesel (Romania)

Of course, each of these had, perhaps, more of a positive impact on the whole world than on the country.

D.S. in Elk Grove, CA, writes: Hello...musician Eddie Van Halen was born in Amsterdam.

D.S. in Palo Alto, CA, writes: Elon Musk (South Africa), Werner von Braun (Germany), Alexander Graham Bell (U.K.), Nikola Tesla, John von Neumann (Hungary), Justin Bieber (Canada). You're allowed to eliminate one.

P.J. in Springfield, VA, writes: For your immigrants piece, I can't believe you left out Elon Musk. He pretty much single-handedly started the global electric vehicle industry, revolutionized access to space through reusable rockets, and is making extraordinary advances in other industries. Your list seemed biased towards people from long ago. I think Musk probably comes in the top five.

B.M. in Sanford, NC, writes: Sergey Brin (Russia), the co-founder of Google.


S.M. in Acton, MA, writes: Responding to S.S.L. of Norman and to anyone who is feeling helpless in the face of political news—I know I felt helpless after the 2016 elections, as so many of us did, like bad things were happening and there was nothing I could do about it. Even though Washington looks a lot different 4 years later, my answer is still the same: go local.

You have so much more power to effect change at a local level than at a national level, and any issue you care about globally or nationally is also at play in your municipal and state government. Find out who your state representative is, who your city councillor is, etc., and find out how they're voting on issues you care about. Call their office and let them know how you feel. Maybe there's a grassroots organization or group chapter in your area that's fighting for something you believe in. You can also look outside electoral politics, and work with community organizations or mutual aid groups.

Political burnout is real, and sometimes you do just need to take a step back and rest, but when you jump back in, this is where your voice has the most power and where you can make the biggest difference.

Complaint Department

P.M. in Currituck, NC, writes: I must agree with the statement from J.B. in London about how this site has slid from a center-left perspective to one that is more like left-wing cheerleading. It reminds me of a similar slide I have observed with NPR over the past decade. NPR has always had a slightly liberal bent, but a few years ago I told a friend that "they're basically the left-wing version of Hannity," and is why I have said before that I find it basically unlistenable—literally every story they run now has some political- or race-related issue baked in, is dripping with opinion, and is why I refer to it now as "Nothing but Politics and Race".

I agree with J.B.: don't allow this site to fall into the same trap. I have been here since 2004, and this site has always been one where I feel I can receive good coverage of news events, even with a slight bias. Please don't go full-blown into that realm, like they have, as I fear doing so will push readers like me away, and help to reinforce to the crazy people that "all the libs are our enemies!".

What's in a Name, Part II

L.E. in Suffolk, VA, writes: Thanks for including my comment about Misty Hyman. I had initially thought about including a link to her Olympic victory video but thought the intrigue of her name and accomplishment would entice people to do their own web search.

If you do perform a Google search for "Misty Hyman," it brings up her Wikipedia page, some photos and some videos. Then Google lists "People also search for..." Quite a list:

Dick Trickle
Dick Butkus (so accomplished that his name became normalized?)
Chubby Cox
Dean Windass
DeWanna Bonner
Dick Paradise
Yoshie Takeshita

The gift that keeps on giving.

A.M. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: A long time ago I met someone by the name of Richard Head!

R.L.D. in Austin, TX, writes: I used to work for a major computer manufacturer with call centers in India. One of my colleagues went there to train technicians to take support calls and one of his students was named Ash Faq. Except that the way he pronounced his name sounded more like an activity called "buggery" in some parts of the English-speaking world. The way he told the story:

Friend: Your name is Ash Faq.
Ash: Yes
Friend: You want me to call you "Ash Faq."
Ash: Yes.
Friend: Okay, from now on your name is Steve...

M.W. in Minneapolis, MN, writes: I work in a medical office and many years ago we had a patient whose name was Lotta Cox. When the surgery scheduler called her to discuss dates for her upcoming procedure, they asked, "Is this Lotta Cox?," and she replied, "Honey, I go by Claire!"

J.W. in Indianapolis, IN, writes: I didn't bother writing last week because I assumed that you'd be inundated with these two names, but it blows my mind that nobody pointed out former Congressman and Ambassador to Denmark Dick Swett (D-NH), or the former Mayor of Fort Wayne, Harry Baals (R-IN):

A poster for Dick Swett and a campaign button for Harry Baals


B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: I take umbrage and wish to protest in the strongest possible terms your website's denigration of the venerable pork pie hat and its sartorial splendor and current relevance. It's one thing to tease the Canadians, but this time you've really crossed a line.

Like many retired men of my age and gender, I awaken early and eat my oatmeal. Then, I sit down in front of my big Underwood typewriter and hammer out a few angry letters to the editor. (If I can't think of something, I start with "You call X a Y? Ha! Back in my day..." Solve for X and the letter practically writes itself.) Then I get in my car and drive around the county at 25 mph with my left blinker on. Now what kind of hat would you wear for that? What? A baseball cap?!? Ha! Back in my day...

I will simply submit into evidence this photograph of a Beau Brummel sporting a pork pie, after which the defense rests:

The author of the letter in his car
with his dog, wearing a pork pie-style hat

J.F. in Houston, TX, writes: I chose not to beat this horse to death a few weeks ago, but I found the window still open, and decided I better send it along.

C.L. in Durham wrote: "Say, whose language is it?"

V & Z responded: "Our copy of Microsoft Word advises us that we speak 'English.'"

And the reason Microsoft does this is because, as we all know (and even Trump supporters will back me on this) that Jesus had blond hair, blue eyes, and spoke English. What is lesser known, but still equally true, is that he drafted his sermons on a PDP-11 using 7 or possibly 8-bit ASCII (the American Standard Code for Information Interchange). I believe as a matter of faith that he used emacs as his word processor, but it is likely that only vi fit on his disk.

C.W. in Myrtle Beach, SC, writes: We should find a way to add 3 more states. That way we would have 53 states, and because 53 is a prime number, we could truly be one nation INDIVISIBLE!

I'll show myself out.

P.K. in Marshalltown, IA, writes: I am pleased that my letter played well in Peoria. I last visited my alma mater in 2019 and was pleased with the general health and well-being of the Illini squirrel population. I am convinced that President Draper and his successors intended the Morrow Plots corn for the use of our rodent heroes. The neighboring undergraduate library was built several stories underground so as not to throw shade on the Morrow Plots, thus preventing any negative impact on the yield of the corn grown there. The squirrels also serve as the honor guard for the grave of President John Milton Gregory, who is buried on the Quad, as he requested.

I must close for now, as I have noticed that the squirrel feeder at my house is bereft of an ear of delicious Iowa corn. They shall not be deprived any further.

S.S. in Detroit, MI, writes: Still seeing a lot of the 'T' word here. Let's shift our focus to more important topics, like promoting megaleukoborealphobia.

V & Z respond: Fear of the great white north? That is always at the forefront of our coverage.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar13 Saturday Q&A
Mar12 Biden Addresses the Nation
Mar12 Watchdog Group Wants 13 GOP Representatives Investigated
Mar12 The Gubernatorial Jockeying Is Well Underway
Mar12 Donald Who?
Mar12 Newsmax What?
Mar12 Sex; Explosions; Meghan, Duchess of Sussex; and the Big Problem with Donald Trump
Mar12 Why So Many Politicians Are Such A**holes
Mar11 Congress Passes the COVID-19 Relief Bill
Mar11 Merrick Garland Finally Gets a New Job
Mar11 Cohen Met with Vance Yesterday
Mar11 Bernie Wins Nevada
Mar11 Nobody Knows Who Won Iowa
Mar11 Florida May Ban Drop Boxes for Absentee Ballots
Mar11 Democrats Shouldn't Take Latinos for Granted
Mar11 What's Going on with Ron Johnson?
Mar11 A Woman to Watch
Mar10 House Expected to Pass COVID-19 Relief Bill Today...
Mar10 ...And They Passed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act Yesterday
Mar10 Greene, Other Trumpy House Members Dial Up the Obnoxiousness
Mar10 Arkansas Tries to Set Collision Course with Roe
Mar10 Lindsey Graham, Racketeer?
Mar10 Republicans Endeavor to Overhaul Grassroots Fundraising
Mar10 So Much for Facebook's Political Ad Ban
Mar09 To Be Blunt, Roy's Out
Mar09 Senate Retirements Complicate Things for the GOP
Mar09 McConnell at Work on Succession Plan
Mar09 RNC Will Not Cease and Desist Using Trump's Image
Mar09 Vance Investigation Adds Second City
Mar09 The Republican War on Voting Has Commenced
Mar09 Biden Kinda, Sorta Wants to Keep the Filibuster
Mar08 Manchin Is Open to Making the Filibuster More Painful
Mar08 How Badly Is Cuomo Wounded?
Mar08 Bipartisanship Is Dead
Mar08 Biden Issues Executive Order on Voting
Mar08 Allen Weisselberg Is in the Crosshairs
Mar08 Willis Hires a Lawyer
Mar08 Trump Threatens the RNC, NRCC, and NRSC
Mar08 Special Election in Texas Will Be a Test of Trumpism
Mar08 Ohio Could Be a Key Senate Battleground Next Year
Mar08 People Have Had It with Political News
Mar07 Sunday Mailbag
Mar06 Saturday Q&A
Mar05 The Fine Art of Getting Things Done, Part I: The Senate
Mar05 The Fine Art of Getting Things Done, Part II: The Senator
Mar05 The Fine Art of Getting Away With It, Part I
Mar05 The Fine Art of Getting Away With It, Part II
Mar05 The Fine Art of Getting Away With It, Part III
Mar05 Trump/???? 2024
Mar04 House Passes H.R. 1